Speechless, "L.I.F.E. Toronto's Thoughts on the Show!"

Speechless // L.I.F.E. Toronto Thoughts!

Speechless, "L.I.F.E. Toronto's Thoughts on the Show!"

During the last couple of sessions of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (L.I.F.E.) Program in Toronto, the group was introduced to a new TV show called Speechless. The show follows the DiMeo family as they go through life and the challenges associated with moving to a new town and starting at a new school.

We’re shown the experiences of every member of the family; Maya the overprotective, sometimes meddling mom, Jimmy the carefree dad, JJ the oldest son with a great sense of humor, Ray the brainiac, and Dylan the athletic daughter.

Speechless Cast
Speechless Cast

It’s heartfelt, funny, and quite realistic as many of the L.I.F.E. participants are able to recount similar experiences they’ve had throughout their lives. This show brings Cerebal Palsy into the mainstream in a big way! It also addresses a number of assumptions about disability in order to educate its viewers in a humorous way.

The reason for the title being Speechless is because the main character, JJ, has Cerebral Palsy and uses a communication device in order to speak. It begins with the family moving to a new town and finding a new aide for JJ. Throughout the episodes, there are humorous story lines that really humanize the experience of having a disability for its viewers, who may have no understanding of disability.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group got together to think of anecdotes they’ve experienced that are similar to those shown in Speechless.

Speechless scene.

In the first episode, JJ walks into his new classroom only to be bombarded with classmates clapping and cheering for him and nominating him for Class President. Participants in the L.I.F.E. program have experienced similar reactions from people in the public when we are out on social outings, “people come up to us and congratulate us on being out and doing activities.”

In another episode, Maya calls JJ over and over again because he failed to show up for his physiotherapist. The group can empathize with JJ on this one and share their similar experiences; Marissa says that she often ignores calls when she is driving her chair because she is staying safe and attentive – whilst also recognizing that not answering her phone may cause people to worry about her.

In the first season, JJ meets Claire, an avid gymnast who is in a wheelchair while she recovers from a gymnastics injury. They become close and JJ decides to tell Claire that he has feelings for her, despite his fear of being rejected. The L.I.F.E. participants can relate to the fear of rejection; rejection from schools, sports teams, programs, and jobs. Jess told the group about her college experience. She made a few good friends throughout the program, but they stopped talking to her near the end of the school year. Jess felt like she had been taken advantage of, she felt they had been her friends to look good for the teacher. The experience caused feelings of rejection for Jess as she left college feeling as though she’d been used.

Jess and Marrisa, participants of our L.I.F.E. Program in Toronto.
Jess and Marissa

We thoroughly enjoyed the Speechless episode called HERO. This episode talks about “inspiration porn.” When Kenneth asks what that is, Ray explains, “it’s a portrayal of people with disabilities as one-dimensional things to only exist to warm the hearts and open the minds of able-bodied people.”

In this episode there is a speech competition and a student who hardly knows JJ decides to write a speech regarding how JJ is his hero.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group has had similar experiences where people have treated them as if they are “inspirational”. Jess has had some interesting experiences where new PSWs show up at her house and talk to her as if she is a baby. Once they see her college diploma, their tone immediately changes to, “Wow, you went to college!”

Another participant had an acquaintance say to her, “my husband and I could learn some things from you. We think that we have problems and are depressed but then I look at you and realize we don’t have it so hard and shouldn’t complain.” This comment really hurt the participant.

“[inspiration porn] is a portrayal of people with disabilities as one-dimensional things to only exist to warm the hearts and open the minds of able-bodied people.”

Evan shared an experience where his PSW called the attendants at his old apartment “angels”.  L.I.F.E. Toronto staff have also had strangers approach them during outings to compliment them on what a great job they are doing. These types of compliments are quite silly, as the staff are just doing their job. Complimenting staff for no reason can also send the negative message that you assume that people with disabilities are somehow exceptionally difficult to work with.


In another Speechless episode called CHEATER, Maya and Jimmy learn that JJ has been cheating on his exams and that most of JJ’s teachers have been knowingly letting him off the hook. The L.I.F.E. group can relate to this, as some of them have had similar experiences where they forgot to pay their fare on the TTC but did not get questioned or reminded to pay by TTC drivers and fare inspectors.

The L.I.F.E. Toronto group has really enjoyed watching the first season of Speechless. The participants and staff all agree that the show has done a great job in portraying the experiences of persons with disabilities and their families, while dispelling disability-related stereotypes in an empathetic and often hilarious way. The group is eager to continue watching Speechless as soon as the next season becomes available.

Want to learn more about some of the important, fun, social, & general life skills we aim to provide young adults with disabilities who are transitioning to adulthood? Check it out here: http://bit.ly/modcLIFE

"Nick Jaroka" - Nick shares his #PathToRecovery story!

Nick’s Path To Recovery

Written by Nick Jaroka

I remember spending time in the rehabilitation unit at Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and evenings quiet, visitors had gone home for the day and this was a time for reflection. One reflection was “now what, what’s next” for the future.

My first exposure to March of Dimes Canada was while going through inpatient rehabilitation; there I met a Linking Survivors with Survivors (LSWS) hospital peer mentor. He had a stroke and was open to talk to me about anything. I remember not being able to speak and frustrated that the words didn’t come out but he was also a stroke survivor and immediately understood, was patient and gave me encouragement to move forward. This LSWS volunteer visited me weekly and each time we met I asked him more questions and felt the hope to keep moving forward.


Once I transitioned back home and continued with outpatient rehabilitation, I was looking to fill some of the spare time between therapy sessions. I got into contact with the LSWS community coordinator and we met. She (was awesome, fantastic… ha ha ) was able to explain the program and we decided that volunteering as a LSWS peer mentor was a great idea.


I volunteered 2 days a week going back to Grand River Hospital (Freeport) and visited stroke patients. This has been a great experience, every time I visited I learned something new about myself and before I knew it I was finding I could do things I wasn’t able to do before.

These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a ‘give back to community’ aspect – Nick Jakora

While volunteering with LSWS, I also attended the YMCA Fitness for Function program. I approached them to see if it would be possible to volunteer in their programs to encourage survivors to continue their rehabilitation. These opportunities enable me to continue my rehabilitation but in a “give back to community” aspect; some days were tiring, but it was a good tired.

Throughout this stroke recovery path, I had this thought if it would be possible to return to work. This would be a huge financial support for my family if I could even work part time. I again approached the LSWS coordinator and she was able to provide linkages including that March of Dimes Canada has an employment program specific to persons with disabilities.

Nick Jaroka
From L-R: Lisa Livingston (Employment Services Team Leader​) Nick Jaroka (Stroke Survivor), Jennifer Estabrooks (Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist​) and Barbara Moore (Community Coordinator LSWS)​

I used March of Dimes Canada assistance to navigate the systems to get the appropriate referrals and the correct paperwork. I met with a career counsellor to find out exactly what my interests are and possible employment opportunities.

Currently, I’m attending a job search workshop where I continue to learn new things about myself, and how to manage those fears of knowing I had a stroke, what if I don’t understand while on the job, what if I can’t recall, and words or my speech get jumbled? Is this goal even possible? I know that I am not alone and will continue to work on my recovery. My next step will be securing part time employment in a field of new interest and can’t wait for the next step in my path to recovery.

For more resources on Stroke Recovery, please visit our landing page for Stroke Recovery Canada®, which is a national service offering support, education and community programs for stroke survivors, caregivers and their families: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC

A Stair Lift for Mrs. Gill!

Mrs. Gill resides in Brampton with her family in a 2 story home. In 2014 she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. This condition left her with limited mobility and dependent on oxygen. At the time of her application a family member had taken a leave from work to offer necessary care to her. For the most part, Mrs. Gill remained confined to the upper floor of her home. The stairs to the main level of the house were dangerous and a 2 person lift to bring her up and down the stairs was necessary, which there was a significant safety issue. Mrs. Gill was not able to safely exit her or engage with her family in simple activities such as having dinner in the dining room.

Mrs. Gill next to her new Stair lift!

With funding approved through March of Dimes Canada’s Home and Vehicle Modification Program a stair lift was installed. This equipment offers a safe method of transition between the levels of the home and Mrs. Gill is now able to access the essential areas and is able to interact with her family on a regular basis.

Here is a a wonderful letter we received from her son:

Good afternoon,

I have attached pictures of the stair lift used by my mother. Now she can access the ground floor using the stair lift to have lunch in the kitchen and to go for a doctor’s appointment. I can see her happy face when she used it for the first time. It’s been a long time since she’s been to the kitchen – she didn’t even recognize the kitchen area! This was mainly due to these parts of the house being inaccessible.

I appreciate March of Dimes Canada for providing this equipment. My mother said, “Thank you.” I’m sure she will enjoy the benefits for the rest of her life. Here are a few examples of these benefits:

  • She is now able to visit the doctor’s for appointments, as well as a clinic, hospital or temple.
  • She can now visit the kitchen on the ground floor to have lunch or dinner with her family.
  • She can now also visit the living room on the ground floor.
  • She can also exit the house in an emergency.

It has definitely improved her quality of life and has brought her cheer by improving her physical ability.


Gurinder Gill.

For more information on our Home and Vehicle Modification Program, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCHVMP


” ‘You will dance again..’ rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.” – Len Boser, Stroke Survivor

Stroke Survivor Stories: Len Boser
Written by Len Boser.

Fifteen years ago, I woke up to find the course of my life had changed forever. The day before, I was a physically active, healthy person leading the normal life of a father of two young sons, 7 and 10 years old. Overnight, I had a severe brain stem stroke that left me unable to walk, to talk and completely paralyzed on my right side.

After one and a half years in the hospital, I felt frustrated and hopeless despite the care of doctors and many trained healthcare practitioners. Despite their care, I did not know how to get my life back.

But, luckily, the inspiration and support from a fellow stroke survivor helped motivate me. His story about his recovery and even being able to dance again got me working on my rehabilitation and interested in helping others on their recovery as well. “You will dance again..” rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.

Encouragement, support from my peers…and my motto…“Never Give Up!”

Len Boser 2
Len Boser

A key to the quality of recovery is support from fellow stroke survivors and their
caregivers…the people who have first-hand experience. This peer support was instrumental for me. And that is what March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Canada® is all about…reaching out to other stroke survivors and giving them understanding, knowledge and hope.


For more information on Stroke Recovery Canada®, please visit: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC


Angie Burke’s Story – Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

Written by Angie Burke.
Angie Burke, Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

I was 46years old and it was a normal evening until my husband heard a crash and found me having a seizure.  I was completely flaccid on the left side and my face was drooping.  I was trying to speak but could not. He called 911 as he recognized the symptoms and knew that I was having a stroke.

The next 2 weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

If I did survive I didn’t know what my life was going to be like? Would I walk again?  Would I talk clearly again?  Would I be able to see clearly again? Dress myself? Feed myself? Would I be able to take care of myself and my family again??

Initially I was unable to walk. I had no use of my left side, I could see nothing on my left side, could not recognize people’s faces – I only knew my husband because of the shirt he was wearing, I could not tell time, I could not write, and the list goes on…

While in the hospital, I had help getting washed, help getting dressed, my meals were brought to me.  This was not the case at home.  The first time that I attempted to dress myself, it took me over an hour.  I remember bursting into tears.  Here I was a grown woman and I couldn’t even put on a shirt myself.  I either had it on backwards or inside out.  The same struggle happened when I tried to cook for the first time.  I couldn’t read, so how was I supposed to follow a recipe? I was extremely weak and still couldn’t see objects on my left side.  I fell and crashed into things constantly.  To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners.  I was always covered in bruises.  Everything was a struggle; from the time I got out of bed until the time I crawled back in again.  I often became so frustrated that I would just scream.  I felt defeated as I needed help with everything.  I felt like I was a burden to my family and completely worthless.  I was terrified that this was what my life was going to be like from now on.

I now have a seizure disorder. I take medication to control them.

I ended up suffering through a depression –oh the depths. The darkness. The hopelessness. The feeling of worthlessness. The loneliness. The despair. The loss of my will to keep fighting. The grief for all that I lost- my career and income, many friends, my freedom (as my driver’s license was suspended), my confidence, my entire identity, my self-worth. The horrible judgments that I passed on myself were devastating. After several months I finally started receiving the treatment, both chemical and therapeutic that helped me to start climbing out of that dark hole and gave me back my will to fight.

Fear in the beginning was crippling. It was my constant companion.  I have learned to overcome fear and have come to the point now, where I can say that I refuse to live in fear. I live in gratitude for the day, today.

I have ongoing memory issues, specifically short-term, but have developed strategies to cope with it.

I faced and overcame all of it; I now work with stroke patients as a Stroke Mentor in the Peers Fostering Hope Program; it is such a wonderful feeling to use my journey to help other stroke survivors that are just beginning their own journey.


I am an artist; I walk with friends; I walk my dog; I ride my bicycle; I lift weights; When I first started, over a year ago, I could only complete my arm lifts with 2.5 pounds. I was so weak and had lost so much weight.  I gradually increased the amount that I was lifting, and currently I am up to 25 pounds, even with my affected arm.  I run 5k on my treadmill every 3rd day and hope to run a 5k this coming summer, I lawn bowl. I smile and laugh.  I tell jokes.  I enjoy my life.   I am a wife; I am a mother; I am a friend. I am an award winner.  I recently won the award for Extraordinary Women of Kawartha Lakes in the determination category.  Most importantly, I take care of myself and my family!! I have faced the nightmare and I have wakened stronger and more whole than I could ever have imagined.

My message to everyone: Life will throw you curve balls, Life will knock you down, but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome.  I’m NOT telling you it’s going to be easy, but I AM telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Angie also took up drawing after her stroke after a relative suggested she try it. She has used some inspirational quotes as part of her subject. Click on each thumbnail to increase image sizes.


For more information on the Peers Fostering Hope program and other support groups, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCSRS


To volunteer with peer visits, please call the Stroke Recovery Warmline® at 1-888-540-6666.

Megan’s Story


Megan was only 20-years-old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over time, the disease has progressed to the point that she has limited circulation in her legs causing severe swelling and she can no longer walk. Megan’s occupational therapist recommended a power wheelchair with a tilted seat to give her mobility and relieve the pressure on her legs. But at a total cost of $18,730, the chair was out of reach for her financially. After receiving funding from the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program and the MS Society, Megan applied to March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program for the remaining $2,700.

March of Dimes Canada was able to fund the remaining amount to help Megan purchase the wheelchair, and she is amazed at the difference it has made. Megan has become more mobile and much more comfortable.

It’s a godsend,” says Megan of her chair. “It’s very helpful. For years I’ve had massive swelling in my legs and since I’ve gotten my chair I now have knee caps and shape to my legs… I feel very blessed to have been able to access this resource.”

Megan is very grateful to all the generous donors who contributed to her power wheelchair.

Thanks to your support over the last year, we have been able to provide 282 assistive devices to 119 consumers just in the Ottawa region alone! We were able to turn every dollar donated into $5.44 worth of equipment – purchasing in total $204,231 worth of assistive devices.

You are making a difference in your community!

You can now be part of our Door-to-door campaign without having to leave the couch! Sign up as an online canvasser and use the power of the Internet to help raise money to support Canadians with #disabilities: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline



“Why I Canvass” – Wayne Eastabrook

Door-To-Door-Wayne-EastabrookPeterborough resident Wayne Eastabrook has been canvassing his neighbourhood in support of March of Dimes Canada’s Door-to-Door Campaign for over a decade. He was first driven to support the Campaign after the organization provided financial assistance to his daughter Kate that allowed her to move into her own apartment.

“I don’t believe that Kate would be able to be as independent and live on her own without the support of March of Dimes Canada,” says Wayne. “It made the transition from our home into a supported apartment so much easier, and our whole family is very grateful for this.”

He started canvassing his neighbours and is able to raise $300 -$400 each year. His community members know he’s coming, and are prepared with a small donation when Wayne comes to their door.

“I like to canvass in January, because how can anybody turn away a man in the cold,” jokes Wayne. “But really, I like to remind my neighbours that this a good cause, helping people in their community, and that every bit counts” he says.

Wayne believes in paying it forward, in addition to supporting March of Dimes Canada, he is also the Board President of Community Living Peterborough.

“I know that there are needs in the community, and somehow, we have to help,” says Wayne.

Want to be part of our Door-to-door campaign but are unable to physically go door-to-door? This is an easy fix! You can now sign up as an online canvasser – here’s the link: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline Help us support Canadians living with disabilities!

Turning Points: Shirley Dennis, David Huson & Paula Povey

Turning Points

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the last few weeks we have been sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are the last three Turning Points:

New Life

“My turning point was when I realized I was going to survive and with a little work and effort, I was still going to have a life.”

– Shirley Dennis

David Huson

 “My turning point was volunteering at a local peer support program; this allowed me the opportunity to apply some of my recovery tools,  and my new normal became dedicated to a life helping others in a similar situation as my own. ”

– David Huson, Guelph Wellington

Paula Povey

My Turning Point happened  three years post stroke, when I accepted the fact that this is MY NEW NORMAL and that I AM A SURVIVOR, NOT A VICTIM!!

– Paula Povey, New Hamburg

Thanks for reading and please make sure you check out the other entries too!

Turning Points: Bob Dutru, William Blodgett, Sangeeta Chaudhari

Turning Points

Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next three Turning Points:

Driver's License

“I’d say the day I got my license back after not being able to drive for 8 months!”

– Bob Dutru, Niagara

William Blodgett Bike

“My turning point was when I learned that I could still ride my bike and swim, albeit not as well as I would like…however practice makes it worth some more.”

– William Blodgett, Peterborough Ontario.

William Blodgett Swimming

Sangeeta Chaudhari

“The day I returned back to volunteering at a school near my home. I feel I am making a difference and it makes me feel proud. I am once again giving back to my community.”

– Sangeeta Chaudhari – Milton, ON

Make sure you check out our entries too!

Turning Points: Tom Rideout, Marg Cyr, Judy Mostow & Margaret Kindree


Today in Canada there are over 300,000 stroke survivors. Stroke Recovery Canada is helping ease the recovery process and these survivors are surviving and thriving! Over the next couple of weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll be sharing some of these “Turning Points” – the moments when these stroke survivors realised there was hope post-stroke!

Here are our next four Turning Points:

Tim Rideout

“My turning point was coming to my first peer support meeting and learning that life does go on after a Stroke.”

– Tom Rideout, Toronto

“Our turning point came when Ted and I joined Survivors of Stroke.  It was from them that we learned how to deal with the challenges of stroke and that while our lives were irrevocably changed, there was life after stroke.

– Marg Cyr, Niagara


“Every year!! I see subtle changes every year as I try to live my new life to the fullest.  I am now celebrating 10 years post stroke, and my new life is full, rich and rewarding.”

– Judy Mostow, Thunder Bay

 “After my stroke I could not spell or do Math.  Rehabilitation and my family helped me relearn spelling and math.  This encouraged me to continue to try more things – playing solitaire, sudoku and getting my driving license back and continuing to write letters.  I am now working on crossword puzzles.  Small things are “Turning Points” for all of stroke survivors.”

Margaret Kindree

  “This is a picture of me and daughters – from left to right Cindy, Valerie, Monica and Margaret – they all helped me after my stroke.”

– Margaret Kindree, Oshawa